NCRB Data on Preventive Detentions


    In Context

    • Recently, the NCRB data on preventive detentions in 2021 was released.

    Data Highlights

    • Preventive detentions in 2021:
      • According to the latest crime statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau,
        • Preventive detentions in 2021 saw a rise of over 23.7% compared to the year before. 
        • In 2021, over 1.1 lakh people being placed under preventive detention. 
        • A total of over 24,500 people placed under preventive detention were either in custody or still detained as of the end of last year.
        • Comparing with 2017 data:
          • This year’s record is the highest since 2017 when the NCRB started recording this data.
          • In 2017, 54.2% of persons detained as such were either in custody or still detained as of the end of the year. 
            • In 2021, this number decreased to 49.8%, with more than half of those preventively detained released. 
    • National Security Act:
      • Of the total preventive detentions, 483 were detentions under the National Security Act, of which almost half (241) were either in custody or still detained as of the end of 2021. 
      • While the number of persons placed under preventive detention has seen an increase in 2021, the NCRB data showed that the number of people arrested in such a manner under the National Security Act had dipped significantly compared to the year before.
        • Preventive detentions under the NSA peaked in 2020 at 741. This number dropped to 483 in 2021.

    • Other laws:
      • Among other laws under which the NCRB has recorded data on preventive detentions are the Goonda Act (State and Central) (29,306), Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988 (1,331), and a category classified as “Other Detention Acts”, under which most of the detentions were registered (79,514).
        • Since 2017, the highest number of persons to be placed under preventive detention has consistently been under the “Other Detention Acts” category.

    Preventive Detention

    • Detention in its simplest sense means to curb the liberty of an individual i.e. without the knowledge of that individual. 
      • There are 2 types of Detention:
        • Preventive Detention:
          • The practice of incarcerating accused individuals before trial on the assumption that their release would not be in the best interest of society
        • Punitive Detention:
          • To punish a person for an offense committed after a court trial and conviction.
    • Constitutional legitimacy:
      • Article 22 of the Indian Constitution provides protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.
      • Article 22 (1) of the Indian Constitution says an arrested person cannot be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.
        • It allows for preventive detention and restriction on personal liberty for reasons of state security and public order.
      • Article 22 (4) states that no law providing for preventive detention shall authorise the detention of a person for a longer period than three months unless:
        • An Advisory Board reports sufficient cause for extended detention.
        • Such a person is detained in accordance with the provisions of any law made by the Parliament.
      • The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 has reduced the period of detention without obtaining the opinion of an advisory board from three to two months. However, this provision has not yet been brought into force, hence, the original period of three months still continues.
    • Preventive Detention Laws in India:
      • Parliament passed a legislation named Preventive Detention Act, 1950 which talks about the detention of a person on the grounds of defense, foreign affairs or the security of the state. 
    • Safeguards Provided in Constitution:
      • To prevent reckless use of Preventive Detention, certain safeguards are provided in the constitution.
        • Time-bound:
          • A person may be taken to preventive custody only for 3 months at the first instance. 
          • If the period of detention is extended beyond 3 months, the case must be referred to an Advisory Board consisting of persons with qualifications for appointment as judges of High Courts. 
          • It is implicit that the period of detention may be extended beyond 3 months, only on approval by the Advisory Board.
        • Grounds of detention:
          • The detainee is entitled to know the grounds of his detention. 
          • The state, however, may refuse to divulge the grounds of detention if it is in the public interest to do so. 
          • Needless to say, this power conferred on the state leaves scope for arbitrary action on the part of the authorities.
        • Representation against the detention:
          • The detaining authorities must give the detainee earliest opportunities for making representation against the detention.

    Way Ahead

    • District magistrates and the police also often make preventive detentions to control law and order in emerging communal clashes or clashes between any two communities — even when it might not always lead to public disorder.
    • Preventive detention should be strictly used with the delicate balance between social security and citizen freedom.
    • As the Supreme Court has observed that to prevent misuse of this potentially dangerous power, the law of preventive detention has to be strictly construed and need to follow meticulous compliance with the procedural safeguards
      • There is an urgent need to ensure this.

    About National Security Act

    • It empowers the government to detain a person if the authorities are satisfied that the person is a threat to national security or to prevent such people from disrupting public law and order.
    • States or Centre can detain a person to prevent him or her from acting in any manner prejudicial to “the security of the state” or for “maintenance of the public order”.
      • A person can be detained if he/she is a threat to India’s relations with foreign countries.
    • It is an administrative order passed either by the Divisional Commissioner or the District Magistrate and not detention ordered by police based on specific allegations or for a specific violation of the law.

    Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988 (NDPS Act):

    • Enacted in 1985, the NDPS Act is the main legislation that deals with drugs and their trafficking
    • Various provisions of the Act punish the production, manufacture, sale, possession, consumption, purchase, transport, and use of banned drugs, except for medical and scientific purposes.

    Source: TH